Reality Training: Train falls off elevated tracks during windstorm

What are the immediate hazard assessment and incident management tasks for the EMS crew that witnesses this incident?


Incident Date: April 27, 2015

Department: WGNO news crew

What happened: A television station news crew had its cameras rolling during a strong storm. As you watch the video imagine this is the view from your ambulance as you post during the storm or as you leave quarters because of the severe weather.

As you pull back from a building, the elevated train trestle comes into view. The train cars are moving slowly across the bridge, over a major thoroughfare. A sudden gust of wind catches the high-profile intermodal containers on the train and you watch, mouth-agape, as the containers and then flat cars fall to the road. There is a flash of light as a transformer explodes and lights around the neighborhood flicker.

Read the more about the incident and watch the video below.

Discussion points: hazard assessment and incident management

As you watch the video ask yourself or discuss with your partner, company, or squad the following questions:

  • What is your first arriving unit report to dispatch about this incident?
  • What additional resources will you request to respond to the incident?
  • How and what traffic incident management procedures will you initiate on your side of the derailment? What about the other side?
  • What are signs or indications that this is a hazardous materials incident?
  • Although no hazardous chemical leaks or injuries were reported in this incident what types of injuries might you expect for motorists that survived a train car falling on their vehicle?
  • What interventions are recommended for victims with collapse or crush injuries, especially when extrication is prolonged?
  • Does your department have a policy to disperse ambulances and fire apparatus throughout your response area if severe weather, like high winds, tornados, or flooding, is likely? If yes, review the policy. If no, consider the risk and benefits of this type of policy.

EMS providers often witness and are the first to vehicle fires, abductions, and incidents like this one because of the time crews spend posting and driving the roads of their response areas. Which means at any moment we could be thrust into the role of first on-scene and incident commander until additional resources arrive.

Asking “what if” or “how would I” is a valuable preparedness exercise for EMS crews. Share your thoughts on witnessing an incident like this and answers to the discussion questions in the comments.

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